On the Philippe-Chatrier court, in front of its 15,225 empty seats, Coco Gauff is rehearsing her ranges. The American is one of the first headliners to arrive at Roland-Garros while 256 players began their quest, Monday, May 22, for the precious sesame for the big picture. Diagonal backhand then forehand, series of volleys and smashes, sequence of serves and returns… the noh 3 in the world, finalist in 2022 against the Polish Iga Swiatek, leaves nothing to chance. In front of her, not a machine that sends balls, but Arthur Bonnaud, a sparring partner who responds to all her requests.
The 26-year-old left-hander, licensed at the Clamart tennis club (Hauts-de-Seine), does not have his name displayed in any table but is guaranteed to tread the mythical Parisian ocher throughout the tournament… in the anonymity. Like him, a dozen sparring partners – from English sparring,” fight”, and partner, “partner”, originally a pugilist participating in the training of a boxer before a fight – are spread over the three weeks of the French Open (qualifications included), as needed.
Their role: to serve as luxury training partners for the players involved in Porte d’Auteuil, whether before their entry into the running, between two rounds or just before a match. “We are at the disposal of the tournament”he summarizes.
When they reserve a training slot at the “practice desk”, players can request a sparring partner to practice, and even a particular profile. “If Novak Djokovic plays his next match against a left-hander, he will want to train with a left-hander to have more benchmarks”, explains the Parisian tennis player. When the session goes well, it is even common for players to ask for the same sparring partner again, for practical reasons or superstition.
“We share the field with the greatest players”
Ranked -15, Arthur Bonnaud has been immersed in the high level of tennis since he was little. After having followed his college and high school courses in flexible hours, he left for Florida (United States) to taste the American university championship while validating a bachelor’s degree in international business. On his return, he tried to embark on the professional circuit, but the Covid-19 pandemic thwarted his plans.
He then sent his application to the French Tennis Federation (FFT) to rub shoulders with the circuit in another way. “We share the pitch with the greatest players in the world, it’s pretty crazy, he says, his eyes sparkling. And when we have good feedback, it’s fun and it gives confidence. »
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